December 11, 2017  

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Eagle’s Nest Pantry Sets a Thanksgiving Table for Students

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The Eagle's Nest Pantry held a Thanksgiving lunch for students and volunteers on Monday, Nov. 20. (Submitted photo)

For students stuck on campus for the holiday break, it was a taste of home. For international students who likely were experiencing their first Thanksgiving, it was a time to sample an American tradition.

The Eagle’s Nest Food Pantry at the University of Southern Mississippi held its first Thanksgiving dinner for students and volunteers on Monday, Nov. 20, in its location in The Hub building on the Hattiesburg campus.

“When I started at the pantry (last year), I noticed a lot of students talked about how they were still here on campus during holidays,” said Krystal Porter Bradley, a social work graduate student from Purvis, Mississippi, who helped coordinate the dinner. “We thought it would be a great idea to do a Thanksgiving dinner for the ones who are still here, as well as our regular customers.”

Scott Blackwell, executive director of Housing and Residence Life, estimates less than 10 percent of the campus’ 3,200 resident students will remain for the holiday break, including approximately 100 international students.

“The opportunity for residents who remain in campus housing to enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal means they have at least one opportunity this week to enjoy traditional holiday fare at no cost to them and provided in the true spirit of generosity and thankfulness,” Blackwell said.

Bradley, classmates Amada Brown and Tyesha Christopher and other volunteers came together to provide traditional Thanksgiving dishes such as turkey and ham, multicultural dishes, fruit and a variety of desserts.

“We’ve had 15 to 20 sets of hands around here all day,” Bradley said. “And, honestly, we have so much food.”

That was good news for students like Lilia and Mirna Rodriguez, freshman music majors and cousins from Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

“This morning I took some food from the Nest, and they told me they would have a Thanksgiving dinner and to come back,” Lilia said. “We don’t have these days, a day for eating food,” she said of Honduran traditions.

She was actually experiencing Thanksgiving for the second time after studying at the English Language Institute at USM last fall. “I ate a lot of food, oh, my God, yes,” she said of last year’s holiday.

And her second Thanksgiving? “The fruit and desserts were very good.”

For volunteer Jermarkus Wilder, senior entertainment industry major from Mobile, Alabama, the Eagle’s Nest in general and the Thanksgiving dinner in particular were a labor of love.

“I actually love it,” he said. “Just to give back and help other students who don’t have enough money to get food when they need it. Even though some students are far away from home, they can always come here. Watching everyone sit down together today and talking brings joy.”

The year-old pantry, an initiative within the School of Social Work, is normally open Mondays and Fridays from 1 to 3 p.m. and Wednesdays from 1 to 5:30 p.m., though it will be closed the rest of this week.

Blackwell said Eagle Dining remains open on a limited basis for meal plan users and cash patrons, including Thanksgiving day from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Fresh Food Company in the Thad Cochran Center.